Growing up I never had a personal relationship with God. I was introduced to religion which was a regimented process of obedience. I often heard about God’s judgment, but not about God’s love. Neither church nor prayer was a consistent practice in our home. Church seemed important at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. With resistance, we attended Sunday School not really understanding its purpose. I was convinced I would never be good enough unless I was close to perfect. My negative perception of God, religion and church was formed at a young age.
As a teen, I started to experience hardships. I questioned my worth and my purpose. My choices were not the best and I was not in a good place. As I struggled through, I heard others speak about God in complete contrast from what I knew. They used words like loving, forgiving, and merciful. They said He would never leave my side. They assured me that He loved me just as I was. He longed to spend time with me, and when I cried, He cried. He adores me and smiles with pride when He thinks of me.
Clearly this did not line up with what I believed as a young girl. They went on to say that He loves me “unconditionally” meaning there are no conditions or limits to His love for me. No conditions? In my world, there was always conditions.
I started my quest to find out more. I attended a church and was welcomed as if they had known me for years. My questions were met with sincerity and no restriction of time. I was learning more about this loving God and wanted more. It felt like my heart and soul had connected for the first time.
I continued to attend church, but it seemed only when it was convenient for me. I would go out with my friends Saturday night (usually very late) and be there early Sunday morning. Being so tired, I prayed they would turn down the lights and music (not sure that was the ideal prayer). It became routine.
Over time the Saturday nights came to a stop. They were not as important. I found myself wanting to attend Sunday, I looked forward to it. The relationship between God and I changed my heart. I could feel His love. I truly feel He cared about me. My negative perception had changed.
I graduated high school and my life was about to change forever. My Dad called and his voice was different. With a soft gentle whisper, he asked about the car I just purchased and wanted to ensure I was ok with the payments. I assured him I was. He asked a few more “Dad” questions and with a chuckle, I promised him I was good. We both said, “I love you” and hung up. I smiled; I absolutely loved my Dad.
About 20min later my sister called. I could tell she was crying, I asked if she was ok. She quietly responded, Dad had a massive heart attack, he passed away. In complete shock I said No! I just talked to him. No, no, he was fine!! I could not breathe. The tsunami of grief gripped my entire body. He just retired. My parents just bought a cabin as their forever home. NO!! I could not live without my Dad. My tears felt like they were in a race. I dropped to the floor and allowed the pain to swallow me whole.
As days passed, although I was so broken there was an inner strength. Although I could not think of my life without my Dad, there was a hint of peace. I thought about the day my Dad passed. They were on their way to the city which was an hour drive. My Dad and Mom would have been in the car plus another couple. God spared many lives that day. I was truly grateful.
God’s love could be explained as wanting the best for someone, and that’s exactly what God intends for us. God loves you simply because he loves you. You do not have to work for his affection. You do not have to set yourself straight before God can pour out his love over you.
God absolutely loves you. It’s hard to get our minds around, but it is true. This is where the faith journey starts: understanding that God loves you. If you do not have an assurance of God’s love, your faith journey will not last long. Fortunately, reading the Bible can help to strengthen your faith in God’s love.
John 3:16 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 4:7-11 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
His love can move mountains, stop the roaring seas, heal broken bones and wounded hearts, transform lives, and set free those held captive by sin and shame.
I came to realize that God is not an angry taskmaster who shows affection only when you succeed or when you make the right choices. He is a loving Father who will always love you no matter what. Allow his love to heal you, transform you, free you, and lead you to the abundant life he has always longed to give.
Although my earthly father is no longer here, that void has been filled by the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father. I am safe, I am loved, I am healed. There is no force more powerful than the love of God. This type of love does exist, and you are worthy to be loved.
There is a Purpose. There is a Promise. There is Hope.